The last time that the Cincinnati Reds Top 25 Prospect list was updated was in November, following the end of the 2019 season. With spring training taking place, at least partially, then the draft – there are new players in the organization, and there’s new information on a few players that were around in November, too.
For the most part, the rankings remain unchanged. Most players didn’t do much in a very limited minor league spring training to change the opinion on them. But that isn’t the case for all players eligible for the list. Two players in big league camp jumped onto the list who weren’t there in the last update. One player is new to the organization since that list came out and the other one showed big improvements during the spring.
Overall, four players jump onto the list since the November update. Two players from the draft, and then two others. Let’s take a look at the new list before talking about why the new additions fit in where they do. If you support the site over at Patreon, well, you’ve already seen all of this. If you aren’t supporting the site over there, you missed out on all of this several weeks ago.
|1||Hunter Greene||RHP||1||Hunter Greene||RHP|
|2||Nick Lodolo||LHP||2||Nick Lodolo||LHP|
|3||Tyler Stephenson||C||3||Tyler Stephenson||C|
|4||Jose Garcia||SS||4||Jose Garcia||SS|
|5||Tony Santillan||RHP||5||Austin Hendrick||OF|
|6||Jonathan India||3B||6||Tony Santillan||RHP|
|7||Stuart Fairchild||OF||7||Jonathan India||3B|
|8||Jose Siri||OF||8||Stuart Fairchild||OF|
|9||Rece Hinds||3B||9||Christian Roa||RHP|
|10||Tyler Callihan||2B||10||Rece Hinds||3B|
|11||TJ Friedl||OF||11||Tyler Callihan||2B|
|12||Michael Siani||OF||12||TJ Friedl||OF|
|13||Joel Kuhnel||RHP||13||Michael Siani||OF|
|14||Vladimir Gutierrez||RHP||14||Joel Kuhnel||RHP|
|15||Noah Davis||RHP||15||Tejay Antone||RHP|
|16||Ryan Hendrix||RHP||16||Vladimir Gutierrez||RHP|
|17||Lyon Richardson||RHP||17||Noah Davis||RHP|
|18||Mariel Bautista||OF||18||Ryan Hendrix||RHP|
|19||Braylin Minier||SS||19||Lyon Richardson||RHP|
|20||Jameson Hannah||OF||20||Mark Payton||OF|
|21||Michel Triana||3B||21||Mariel Bautista||OF|
|22||Miguel Medrano||RHP||22||Braylin Minier||SS|
|23||Brian O’Grady||OF||23||Jameson Hannah||OF|
|24||Packy Naughton||LHP||24||Michel Triana||3B|
|25||Ivan Johnson||SS||25||Miguel Medrano||RHP|
Now, the old list included two players who are no longer in the organization. Jose Siri, who was rated as the #8 prospect was claimed on waivers by Seattle in early February. In mid-March he was then claimed on waivers by the San Francisco Giants. Brian O’Grady, who was the #23 prospect, was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays in late November.
That opened up two spots on the list, but four additions overall were made – pushing two players off of the list. Let’s take a look at which additions came onto the list, and why they were placed onto the spots that they were.
The top prospect for the Reds according to Baseball America, coming in at #84 overall on their list, the 2020 1st round pick has a lot of things to like about his game. His power potential might be the best in the entire draft class, with at least some reports suggesting there’s 40-homer upside here. On top of the power, he’s also got an above-average hit tool, an above-average arm, and good defense to go with solid speed. But there’s some concern about how much swing-and-miss he may have in his game, too – which could put a limit on his hit tool.
For me, the top four prospects in the Reds organization are going to remain unchanged. Hunter Greene stays at #1, and after seeing that he’s throwing 102 MPH again after Tommy John surgery, it’s an absolute lock for me. I felt it was a lock back in November, but it’s even more so now. Nick Lodolo was the 1st round pick in 2019, is advanced, had 30 strikeouts with no walks as a professional in 2019, has a high ceiling – even if it’s not quite as high as that of Hendrick – and has a very high floor as an advanced college arm.
Behind the two pitchers are the top two position player prospects. Tyler Stephenson and Jose Garcia are basically neck-and-neck in terms of prospect status. Stephenson has a higher floor – the catcher has a better plate approach currently, and has experienced success in both Double-A and the Arizona Fall League. Garcia was a guy that I repeatedly called the most underrated prospect in baseball all offseason as list after list kept him out of their Top 100 prospects, while I was essentially screaming about how good he was. Then spring training began and he started opening up eyes in the greater Phoenix area with the Reds big league club – showing off power, speed, and defense. A strong defender with plenty of offensive tools, he’s got tons of upside. His floor is a bit lower than that of Stephenson simply because of the position difference and the fact that Stephenson is arguably closer to being ready for the big leagues. If you want to argue that Garcia’s the better prospect, it’s an argument that holds plenty of water.
After those four guys is where you start to, at least for me, reach the point where Austin Hendrick fits in. Tony Santillan didn’t quite show off the same stuff in 2019 as he did in 2018 as he battled several non-serious injuries during the year and saw his control also take a step back from the big step that it took in the right direction the year prior. Behind him is Jonathan India, the 2018 1st round pick who has flashed some tools, but hasn’t exactly stood out statistically anywhere he’s been since being drafted.
Perhaps it’s the old conundrum of “we’ve seen the warts on the older guys and we haven’t on the newer, younger guys yet”, but I’d slide Austin Hendrick in at #5 on the list, just ahead of Santillan and India.
The Reds 2nd round pick out of Texas A&M has live stuff, with a potential plus pitch, two above-average offerings and a solid 4th pitch. But he’s yet to really put it all together, too. He made just 15 starts in college, with 20 appearances in relief – he started 14 games over the last two seasons after nearly all of his freshman year was out of the bullpen. He was solid, but unspectacular as he posted a 4.25 ERA in 82.2 innings with 24 walks and 93 strikeouts for the Aggies. The upside is certainly there, but there’s some unknown when it comes to starting, too.
The unknown and inconsistent performance is going to immediately put him behind former 2nd round pick Stuart Fairchild, who took a big step forward in 2019 while splitting time between Daytona and Chattanooga before getting a handful of at-bats in the Arizona Fall League. Fairchild’s ceiling is that of a quality starter, perhaps not an All-Star, but he’s also got the feeling of a safe big leaguer even if that floor is a 4th outfielder.
It’s that next group where Christian Roa seems to fit in. Rece Hinds and Tyler Calliahan were rated 9th and 10th, and were last years 2nd and 3rd round picks. The upside is quite high for both of them, with Hinds having plus to plus-plus raw power, and Callihan showing above-average to plus raw power along with an above average hit tool at second base – but both are young and a bit raw at the plate still, needing to work on their pitch recognition skills. Roa has the much higher floor, assuming he stays healthy, as a guy who could pitch out of the bullpen if starting doesn’t work out for him. But the ceiling is pretty high, too, as a starter who could show solid control with four pitches – three of which could be above-average. For that reason he slides in behind Fairchild, but ahead of Hinds and Callihan.
When the season ended in 2019, Tejay Antone had put together a solid year. In his second season back from Tommy John surgery (he missed all of 2017 and some of the first half of 2018), Antone posted a 4.00 ERA between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville with 133 strikeouts in 146.1 innings. His strikeout rate improved with a promotion to Triple-A as his slider improved. While his slider improved to an above-average offering, the fastball working 89-92 – while showing good sinking action – just didn’t inspire enough confidence on my end to rate him in the Top 25 at the time. There was too much risk that he was going to wind up in the bullpen, and while that outlook probably made him a big leaguer of some sort, he didn’t resemble a reliever who would be pitching in the 8th/9th innings, either.
But then he showed up to big league spring training and was sitting 96-97 MPH and touching 98. The outings he had were shorter, but he’s never been there as a professional when it comes to velocity. I even got a report from a scout who saw him before spring training was shut down that graded out his slider as a plus offering.
With that kind of velocity, even in short stints, along with a potentially plus slider and big time ground ball rates (55.3% in 2019, which is also his career rate in the minors), the upside as both a starter and a reliever jumps up quite a bit. The fallback as a reliever could see him move to a potential late-inning guy if he’s going to bring 98 and a plus slider. As a starter we don’t quite know what the velocity will be like in 5-6-7 inning outings, but the uptick certainly moves him from #5/swingman profile to something a bit higher than that.
As for sliding him into this spot it was kind of simple for me. As a reliever it’s tough to sell that he’s a better option than Joel Kuhnel right now. Kuhnel’s been in the big leagues and had a little bit of success, and his minor league success as a reliever is quite strong. That’s not to say the upside as a reliever can’t be as high or higher for Antone, but the track record isn’t there for it and Kuhnel’s not exactly hurting for stuff to match up, either.
But the next guy on the list is Vladimir Gutierrez. The secondary stuff for Gutierrez is better overall than it is for Antone. But the fastball is a big question mark for him, too. The pitch can be a bit straight, and it doesn’t have the velocity to just put it by guys. There’s still an outside chance he can start in the long run if he can make the fastball work because the secondary stuff is pretty good across the board – but there’s a lot of “going to wind up in the bullpen and you hope he finds extra velocity on the fastball if he does” vibe here. And if that’s the case, Antone’s already showing a much better fastball and his slider matches up well, too.
When the original list was published, Mark Payton had not yet been acquired in the Rule 5 draft. On one side of the ledger, Mark Payton absolutely destroyed the baseball in 2019. He hit an absurd .334/.400/.653 on the season in Triple-A with 45 walks and just 76 strikeouts. That’s an OPS of 1.053. It did come in Triple-A where the baseball, like in the Major Leagues, was juiced to the gills. The team that Payton played on had an OPS of .902 on the season – which is crazy. Of course, Payton was much better than that.
The baseball was certainly a part of the outburst. Nearly everyone who played in Triple-A last year saw a big improvement in their offensive output as the baseball just flew like crazy. But there was likely more to it than that for Payton, who started hitting the ball in the air far more than he had ever done before. His ground ball rate went from 44% in his career to 34.7% in 2019. Even when the ball isn’t a superball it’s beneficial for almost any hitter to get the ball in the air more.
He’s a lefty who crushed right-handed pitching to the tune of .357/.417/.697 with 33 walks and 50 strikeouts in 339 plate appearances. He makes a lot of contact against opposite handed pitchers, draws walks, and shows off some pop. All of these things are good.
The flip side of that, though, is that he’s now 28-years-old and has no big league experience. His breakout happened in a year where we absolutely know the baseball was different. And he’s listed at 5′ 8″ and 190 lbs. He’s got some strength in that frame, but he’s not exactly your prototypical size for a big leaguer, either.
His future role might not be that of a starting player on an every day basis, and with the Reds he’s certainly facing an uphill battle to find playing time given the amount of depth they have in the outfield. But prospect rankings aren’t (or at least shouldn’t be) based on opportunity in front of a player, but how they’d be valued in a vacuum because circumstances can change in an instance. There’s some solid value for a left-handed hitter who crushes right-handed pitching. Toss in that Payton can handle center field on the defensive side, as well as the corners, and he starts to look like a rather useful utility player. His age works against him, for sure, but the profile feels safe-ish for a future utility guy with a little bit of upside.
Coming in at the #20 spot, it was an interesting place to try place him on the list. Mariel Bautista, Braylin Minier, Jameson Hannah, and Michel Triana were all right behind there as position players. Bautista, Minier, and Triana likely all have higher upsides for various reasons. What they don’t have is the same kind of floor – Minier and Triana have never taken a swing in a professional game yet, while Bautista shows all of the right tools, but also struggled to hit for much of the year in Low-A last season. That “safeness” for Payton put him just ahead of that group for me.
The Reds 2nd round compensation B pick, Jackson Miller doesn’t jump off of the scouting page at you. The catcher doesn’t have a truly above-average tool to work with. But he does have average to fringe above-average tools nearly across the board. And when that comes with a catcher, that could ultimately lead to an above-average player down the road given the expectations for the position.
For me, Miller falls behind the next group of players that features TJ Friedl, Michael Siani, Joel Kuhnel, Vladimir Gutierrez, Noah Davis, and Ryan Hendrix. The upside, high floor, proximity to the Majors – or in some cases, multiple of those things are in play that put those guys a notch above Miller. It’s that next group that includes Lyon Richardson, Mariel Bautista, Braylin Minier, Jameson Hannah, Michel Triana, Miguel Medrano, Packy Naughton, and Ivan Johnson – the rest of the list, where it feels like Miller could slide in.
Richardson doesn’t look like the same guy that was drafted out of high school who was hitting 98 MPH as a senior. He’s topped out just under 95 MPH as a professional in 2 seasons and routinely throws in the 89-92 MPH range. But after struggling in 2018 after the draft, he more than held his own in 2019 with Dayton. The stuff is solid, and there’s upside within if he can get back some velocity that disappeared after being drafted. Mariel Bautista’s got all of the tools, but his pitch recognition held him back in 2019 against full-season pitchers – but his upside is very high. Braylin Minier and Michel Triana were 7-figure international signings last summer. Minier is just 17-years-old and hasn’t played yet, while Triana is 20 and coming out of Cuba where he played a few years ago but hasn’t played any official games yet – but was in Goodyear for spring training this year. Big upsides with both guys, but no real track record to go on.
Miguel Medrano has quality stuff and pitched well in 2019 for the Billings Mustangs. Packy Naughton broke out in 2019 with Daytona before a quick promotion up to Double-A Chattanooga where he barely slowed down. And then there’s Ivan Johnson, the 2019 4th round pick out of Chipola Junior College. The shortstop was solid in his debut for Greeneville, but showed a bit more upside in my opinion than his draft position may reflect.
Exactly where do you place a solid, but unspectacular prospect within this group? His upside can’t match that of Bautista, Minier, or Triana – and Bautista tore up Billings, though he did struggle in Dayton. For that reason he’s at least going to be behind those three. The “not a huge upside, but could be a solid starting option” feels a lot like what you could say about Packy Naughton. But of course, Packy Naughton has had success in Double-A, so it’s tough to make the argument that Miller should be ahead of him. That brings you down to Ivan Johnson versus Jackson Miller. Slightly older shortstop versus a slightly younger catcher. I’d call it a toss up, but with Johnson having a little bit of professional experience under his belt, I’m going to give him the absolute slightest of edges here.